It was a gathering of the titans in the African and United Arab Emirates Aviation cum Tourism Industry at the just concluded 15th Akwaaba African Travel Market. One of the highlights was the need for countries on the African Continent to implement the SAATM in order to grow the Aviation Industry and make the airlines profitable and sustainable. Pearl Ngwama reports.
The need for African governments to implement the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) once again led the topic of discussion at the recent 15th Akwaaba African Travel Market held in Lagos.
Stakeholders brainstorming on the theme of the Aviation Day; ‘Impact of Airport Development and Airline on Tourism Growth,’ maintained that the implementation of SAATM was necessary to grow the Aviation Industry in Africa.
Opening the discussion with a presentation on the theme, the Director, Government, Legal and Industry Affairs, African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Mr. Aaron Munetsi, said he was sick of hearing that African airlines are not profitable.
He posited that it is not the fault of the African airlines but that they are burdened with charges.
He stressed that airports are charging airlines so much whereas airports infrastructure are crumbling. This, according to him, is a contributory factor to the demise of airlines on the continent with its attendant job losses.
Quoting from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) data, Munetsi said African airlines have lost more than $140 billion in the last 10 years and most of the losses were linked to costs from airport charges, fees and taxes.
He averred that airport managers across the world were benefitting more than airline operators, stating that at least $38 goes into the coffers of airport managers, $61.8 for landing and parking, catering, ground handling and others, while only 0.2 cents goes into the pockets of airlines out of $100 tickets.
He said: “Airlines are not profitable despite the fact that everybody wants to build an airline. Airlines keep paying money for services rendered to them by all companies. But, for airports, everyone that goes in there must pay to the airport managers.
“Airports are killing jobs, airports are killing our youths. When an airline packs up, jobs are lost. When people don’t travel because airports are killing airlines with charges, it means airports are
“I still don’t understand why airports are not the best business to be done in the world.
“We need to get to the stage where airlines will be asking airports where can we merge or work together. I want a situation where you are building an airport you go to the airlines and share with them.”
He regretted that despite the fact that Africa has a large market which is the envy of other nations, in 2016 only two countries on the continent – Morocco and South Africa received 10 million passengers and tourists. He added that 80 per cent of passengers on the African market are carried by nine airlines.
“If 10 million passengers are what we’re going to celebrate what about Atlanta Airport alone in United States that welcomed at least 184 million passengers and tourists within the same one year,” he queried.
Munetsi further lamented that only 19 per cent of air passengers are airlifted by African carriers from the continent, while foreign airlines transport the rest 81 per cent. “Africa should not continue to allow foreign carriers to dominate its airports,” he stressed.
However, he raised hope that SAATM is set to change all this, adding that we must have a go-to-market plan and strategy and also have the speed to go the market because everyone is targeting the market.
“It’s only SAATM that can encourage growth in African Aviation. As at last week Monday night, the number of signatories to SAATM has grown to 31 from 29 just over the weekend. We are expecting at least four more countries to join before the end of the year.”
On his part, Mr. Shaun Mendez from Africa World Airlines (AWA) observed that there were several bottlenecks operating as an airline operator in Africa.
He, however, hoped that African governments would come together to address the challenges on the continent.
He also tasked other African governments to take a cue from Ghanaian Government, which removed Value Added Tax (VAT) from air tickets and other aspects of aviation in the country.
He stressed that this singular policy had further driven market to the West African country.
“The market in Ghana is more suitable for us to operate. Accra is a business-friendly environment with world class standards especially the Kotoka International Airport that was opened last year in that city. The new terminal at Accra is a game changer for Ghana and that
is why we are growing profitably,” he said.
Aviation Analyst, Mr. Chris Aligbe, also speaking, decried that despite the geographical location of Nigeria, it lacked world class airport, which could drive business.
He was of the view that even when the government sets up an excellent airline, the lack of facilities at the nation’s airports would not drive their growth.
Corroborating Mutnesi, Aligbe insisted that airport infrastructure development was very critical for Nigerian aviation industry while pointing out that hinged on standard infrastructure AWA had turned Accra to a hub.